Recent events in the city of O’Fallon have led to questions by a former council member regarding possible dysfunction between the city’s administration and its police department, and in its personnel practices.
On Oct. 2, Police Chief Tim Clothier resigned after less than 18 months on the job. A lawsuit against Clothier, filed by Capt. Jeffrey Gray, alleges defamation of character. Additionally, Gray and Maj. Kyle Kelley filed a lawsuit on Feb. 12, 2018, against the city, Mayor Bill Hennessy, former police chief Roy Joachimstaler and others in the city’s administration. That suit alleges discrimination and defamation.
On Sept. 24, the city of O’Fallon issued a press release announcing the resignation of Chief Tim Clothier, effective with the close of business on Oct. 2. The announcement did not give any reasons for the resignation but did quote Hennessy as saying, “The City Council and I are grateful to Chief Clothier for his efforts in leading the department for the past 18 months.” Clothier had been chief from May 28, 2019, through Oct. 2, 2020, a total of 16 months and five days. The city now has its second interim chief, both hired from outside the department, in less than two years.
Mid Rivers Newsmagazine published the announcement that same day, as did local news outlets KSDK, Fox2 and KMOV. The KSDK report also was picked up by msn.com, making it a nationally-reported story.
The KSDK 5 On Your Side story was headlined “O’Fallon, Missouri chief clashed with city leaders over disciplining politically-connected officer.” It quoted unnamed sources who indicated that “Clothier, a Marine Corps veteran, learned one of his officers had falsified information about his military record.”
It went on to say that “Clothier notified city leaders about his findings, but he was frustrated over what he believed was the administration’s reluctance to hold the officer accountable.”
Clothier neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
On Oct. 1, the city announced the naming of Philip Dupuis as interim police chief, effective Oct. 2. Dupuis recently retired as the chief of police in Conroe, Texas. At its Oct. 8 meeting, the O’Fallon City Council voted unanimously to ratify Dupuis’ appointment.
Immediately after the Oct. 8 ratification, Hennessy clarified that Dupuis would not be wearing the O’Fallon Police uniform yet, because while he is certified in Texas, he is not yet POST (Police Officer Standards Training) certified in Missouri. According to the website for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, POST certification has a streamlined process for veteran police officers from other states; however, timelines can vary.
On Oct. 22, former Ward 2 council member (2010-2016) Jim Pepper told Mid Rivers Newsmagazine that he had “learned from a contact on the city council and also a contact in the police department that the allegation about a police officer falsifying military information was referring to the individual’s DD-214.” (The Defense Department issues each veteran a DD-214 form identifying that veteran’s condition of discharge – honorable, general, other than honorable, dishonorable or bad conduct, along with other pertinent information.)
“Due to the seriousness of the allegation, shortly after Clothier resigned, the city conducted an internal investigation, using an outside, third-party investigator,” Pepper said. He added that he had just learned “that investigation showed no falsification and no basis for such an allegation.”
Mid Rivers Newsmagazine has seen a copy of the memo clearing the police officer.
Pepper said his sources told him, “The whole matter actually started when Clothier inappropriately approached this police officer in a one-on-one meeting one morning in a Lowe’s parking lot, off-site at the chief’s request, and attempted to get the officer to besmirch the expertise and reputation of Capt. Jeffery Gray.”
Pepper claimed this was “because of a difference of opinion over new sidearm holsters Clothier wanted to order for all officers.”
Pepper said the officer was an expert in these matters due to his position, “had told Clothier the proposed holsters would not work for the current sidearms in use.”
“Clothier was angry about this,” Pepper said.
According to Pepper, it was after this alleged incident that “the accuracy of (the officer’s) DD-214 was challenged by Clothier and that challenge was repeated to city officials.”
Pepper claimed, “Similar shenanigans in recent years have led to lawsuits by police officers against the city.”
Pepper’s remark alluded to the Gray-Kelley lawsuit, which he said was “precipitated by people in the previous and current administration meddling in police department matters where they do not have the authority and expertise.”
He said he believes “the lawsuit probably could have been avoided quietly two-and-a-half years ago with a simple, written apology. But then others in the administration got involved where they didn’t belong, everything blew up from there, and now this has dragged out for three years.”
Pepper also calls the Gray-Kelley lawsuit into question in regard to the naming of an interim police chief following both the resignations of Joachimstaler and Clothier.
“Why did the city spend more money to pay an outside firm for a search, then hire yet another interim chief and pay for the interim chief’s salary, etc., when they already have an assistant chief of police, Major Kyle Kelley?” Pepper asked. “Kelley already has the title, experience and authority to serve in that role until a new chief is in place, without the city spending more money on another person for a temporary role.
“Why is the city so cavalier with our taxpayer money? Maybe the Kelley/Gray lawsuit has some merit and the city is afraid?”
The city of O’Fallon’s policy is to not comment on any active litigation or personnel matters.